Cartersville schools increase recycling efforts

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The four schools in the Cartersville City School District are putting more effort into their recycling programs, and it shows. 

This year, the students are doing everything from forming a recycling team to increasing their totals for the Keep Bartow Beautiful School Recycling Contest by thousands of pounds.

"We are doing a lot with the Cartersville City schools, which have shown a large increase in poundage from last [school] year," KBB Executive Director Sheri Henshaw said. "I am so excited to see how motivated the teachers are to share the recycling message with their students and to promote environmental stewardship."

Each school met the baseline — the estimated break-even point for service provided annually by the county — of 10,000 pounds for the 2017-18 school year, and the system as a whole increased its collections by 26,980 pounds from the previous year, bringing the total collection to 79,140 pounds. 

"We have recognized some of our top county schools in the past, but seeing an entire system increase to almost 80,000 pounds in one year, with all schools a part of that positive growth, was notable," Henshaw said. "We are a recycling community, but I think this shows specifically that Cartersville is a recycling city, starting with their youngest citizens."

The school system's total is even more impressive when taking into account the fact that the city has a recycling program in place. 

"With curbside recycling collections available for Cartersville residents — which is a very good thing, by the way — these schools don't really have as many parents and teachers participating in the collection process on campus as volunteer contributors on the same scale as some of the county schools, many of whom support the school programs with their weekly recycling collection drop-offs," Henshaw said. "That is why I took note of what the city system had accomplished."

There are several apparent reasons for the jump in collections.

"One reason is that the teachers got involved, got some good ideas and reached out to me for help," Henshaw said. "Also, more students got involved, and more classes added to the collection process."  

For the 2017-18 school year, all four schools collected at least 1,000 pounds more than they collected the previous year, with Cartersville Elementary upping its total by 12,580 pounds.

"The elementary school showed a huge jump," Henshaw said. "They got organized, through the efforts of their fantastic art teacher, Jennifer Turem, and we outfitted the school in recycling bins for each classroom last year. With more support, a team leader and increased visibility of those bright blue bins, the program exploded. This year, her student council wants to get involved so I am expecting that program to flourish." 

Turem said she was "very proud of our students."

"They took more ownership and interest in our recycling program by being in charge of recycling," she said. 

Each homeroom's student council representative is responsible for keeping track of the class' recycling efforts and taking the materials — aluminum and tin cans, paper, cardboard and corrugated cardboard and plastic containers and bottles — to the larger recycling bin every Friday morning, Turem added.  

Cartersville Middle saw the second-highest increase last year, bringing in an additional 8,000 pounds over the previous year, Henshaw said. 

"The middle school is just always competitive, as was the high school this past year," she said. "They want to win against the other schools in their category and have tried hard to 'up their game.' They bring their recycling team to our free field trips to the landfill and recycling center whenever possible during America Recycles Month in November." 

For this year's field trip, 33 seventh-grade CMS Beta Club members were taken on a tour of the recycling center Nov. 15 by Bartow County Solid Waste Director Rip Conner. 

"They got to see what we recycle, how we recycle it and learn why that is so important," Henshaw said.  "They saw the actual materials in the recycling center hub, where we bring everything for sorting and bailing. They saw the baler in operation, as well as some recycling trucks emptying their loads for the day."

The students also asked questions "about recycling markets, how much we make, why we recycle what we do based on available markets, what items get made from our materials," she said, noting she usually sees an "uptick in recycling once a school has visited."

"We gear these discussions during our field trips up or down, depending on the age of our audience," she said. "Their seventh-grade [Beta Club] members had some good questions, and we give them direct answers to some oftentimes tough questions about balancing the needs of the public against the needs of the environment, not just for today, but for the foreseeable future."  

CMS recycling team sponsor Jackie Pace said she wanted her students to see what happens to the materials they collect from classrooms and offices and dump into the school's larger recycling bin every morning.  

"I also wanted the students to have a chance to see what all their hard work was going toward and how they were helping the community and the environment," she said. "I hope they left the tour with plans to encourage their parents and friends to recycle as much as they can. I also hope that they learned about how important every job in the community is and how everyone works together to make sure that the community is clean and productive." 

The sponsor said she thought the facility was "very impressive," and the employees were "very knowledgeable and very passionate about their work."

"It was shocking to see the piles and piles of materials, but it was good to know those materials were going to be recycled and reused rather than ending up in a landfill," she said. "I enjoyed the chance to see the facility and learning about the step-by-step process that goes into recycling products."  

Cartersville High School raised its recycling total last year by 5,640 pounds, Henshaw said.

"At the high school, teacher Debby Justus requested some see-through and more portable containers for can and bottle collection at key locations for students as part of a pilot program that year," she said. "That increased recycling visibility on campus, and the students could see what was being collected right in the bag, cans and bottles, in turn triggering more consistent recycling habits." 

The primary school showed a slight gain of 760 pounds of recyclables, Henshaw said.

Recycling is becoming more important than ever in this country.

"This is a critical issue for our nation right now, with the recent reports on climate change and with changes in manufacturing in the U.S. due to tariffs on items such as steel," she said. "With import/export costs now affecting the automotive industry, new ways of sourcing enough materials for manufacturing locally could result in increased need for the materials recycled here in America."

Next week, Henshaw is planning to present $100 Award of Merit checks to the primary school, led by sponsors Leah Hobgood and Linda Linn, and the high school, led by sponsor Tanya Hyman, for their recycling efforts last year.

"This will give some teachers some extra funds for classroom science and technology projects or just reward folks for participation," she said. "With each school in the system increasing their collections, that is impressive to me and worthy of awards for each school and says a lot about their commitment to both waste reduction and increasing recycling as well as educating staff and students about the process and getting engagement on a daily basis."  

Last year, the middle school won $200 after tying for third in its division in the contest, and the elementary school got an $100 Award of Merit of $100 for its huge increase, she added.   

For the future, Turem said CES's student council is planning to implement recycling in the school cafeteria in January.

"There is a lot of lunch trash that can be recycled that is currently thrown away," she said. "Student council is working on a recycling video to instruct all students on cafeteria recycling protocol."